Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Frank Herbert has forever marked the landscape of science-fiction with his all-time famous Dune Series, showing everyone what epic stories truly look like. In the third entry in the series, titled Children of Dune, we follow Paul Atreides’ twin children, Leto and Ghanima, as they are caught up in their aunt Alia’s manipulative power schemes, who is also facing the unpleasant reality of treason on multiple fronts.
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Frank Herbert Proceeds with the Next Generation
Despite many authors’ unmistakable desire to write truly grand and epic (and bestselling) stories, there is a reason expansive works of science-fiction tend to be looked upon with a good deal of reverence. Most writers struggle to keep a single book cohesive, and even fewer are capable of keeping it together across several entries.
I think this alone is good enough of a reason to say Frank Herbert‘s Dune Series will likely outlive us all in terms of relevance, and keep its place in the pantheon of essential classics as long as literature exists, having essentially laid out the perfect blueprint to epic science-fiction. We’ve already looked at the first and second books of the series, which means we’re logically going to be looking at the third one, Children of Dune.
I should mention the books do need to be read in order if you are keen on following the story and understanding what’s happening; unfortunately I can’t recommend you jump right into the middle, unless you’re looking to experience a once-in-a-lifetime confusion. In any case, Paul Atreides, the hero of the last two books, has disappeared into the wasteland of the desert planet Arrakis, the sole source of the Spice drug in the cosmos. This was nine years ago, and nobody has heard from him since. In his stead are his twin children, Leto and Ghanima, and their aunt Alia, who rules the Empire in the name of House Atreides.
Despite Alia’s tremendous power her tenure at the top of the galaxy doesn’t bode well for her as she begins to experience treachery on multiple fronts. On one hand, House Corrino, displaced and disgraced, is plotting to regain the throne with some devilish machinations. On the other hand, a mysterious figure known as The Preacher is pushing the native Fremen towards an open revolution.
The gift of words is the gift of deception and illusion.― Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
Though Alia’s resources are increasingly limited, she does see a potential salvation for herself: the visions of Leto and Ghanima, undoubtedly blessed in some way by their father’s powers. Their visions are prophetic in nature, and Alia believes they hold the key to saving her dynasty.
Moving on From Muad’Dib in Children of Dune
When it comes to most book series, they have the need to revolve around something specific, an element which can connect one work to the next. More often than not, this element is the protagonist, a character we can recognize and eventually relate to more and more as we follow them on their journeys.
In Children of Dune, Frank Herbert makes the rather brave decision to move on from Paul Atreides, the man who carried the two previous novels on his back. I became accustomed to him over quite a good bit of time, and I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me worried about what directions the story might take into the future.
For starters, I was quite happy to see the story’s link to Paul wasn’t simply severed and forgotten about. Even though he is no longer present for the events of the story, the character’s aura and far-reaching influence are felt throughout the entire thing.
The purpose of argument is to change the nature of truth.― Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
Time and time again he is brought up both directly and indirectly, making him come to life as an abstract deity rather than his regular self. In way, his character keeps on developing despite the plot having theoretically moved on from him.
As for the new characters we are asked to follow, his children Leto and Ghanima, it took me a bit of time to warm up to them, but as their significance to the plot kept increasing, so did my appreciation for their actions and deliberations.
Though they do share their father’s gifts and supernatural powers, they are their own people and move in their own directions, which made them feel unique and believable in the end. Though I was ultimately sad to see Paul Atreides go as our main character, I think Herbert left us in good hands.
Surrounded by Enemies
Stepping back from what is likely the most surprising decision in this book, let’s look at the actual intrigue itself and how it matches up against what we’ve experienced in the previous novels. In the first book we were treated to a hopeful and exciting adventure with limitless potential, while in the second one things took a turn for the dark as Paul battled his possessed sister.
In the third book, I feel like we’re going to back to an atmosphere which more closely resembles the first one, as we follow Leto and Ghanima’s journeys to realizing their powers and asserting their place in the universe as leaders of House Atreides. Their powers exceed those of their father, and there are no shortage of fiends in the galaxy yearning for them.
Most deadly errors arise from obsolete assumptions.― Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
There are plenty enough mysterious enemies for our heroes to face as well. On one hand, House Corrino of the defeated Emperor Shaddam is plotting to strike from the shadows and take back what was once theirs. On the other hand, a mysterious figure known only as The Preacher is pushing the native Fremen towards revolution.
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In other words, the balance of power shifts and turns on a fairly consistent basis, to the point where it feels like nothing is guaranteed to anyone; in the end, those with everything might find themselves with nothing, and vice-versa. Despite the strong focus placed on developing the Atreides children (and no doubt prepare them to lead future novels), Herbert still managed to insert quite a few good twists and turns to both their story as well as the overarching plot.
The Final Verdict
Children of Dune by Frank Herbert is an addition to the Dune series equal to its two predecessors, successfully managing the transition to new main characters while laying out an exciting plot with some very interesting ramifications for the continuation of the story. If you’ve enjoyed the previous books in the series, then I strongly recommend you keep the journey going and add the third one to your collection as well.
(October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986)
Frank Herbert was an American author who primarily wrote in the science-fiction genre, with the 1965 novel Dune and its five sequels being considered as his magnum opus.
He also worked as a newspaper journalist, a photographer, book reviewer, lecturer and ecological consultant. In addition to being made into two movies, Dune also won the 1965 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1966 Hugo Award.